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A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/47293/steel_curtain_fave.png 2022-12-07T15:15:22-05:00
Updated: 51 min 43 sec ago

Steelers Injury Report: 4 players miss practice on Wednesday

6 hours 46 min ago
Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After one day of practice, it is unclear if injuries will prevent anyone from missing Sunday’s game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers exited Sunday’s game with a victory and relatively healthy when factoring in how late it is in the season. As the Steelers took the practice field for their first official day of preparation for the Baltimore Ravens, there were four players who did not participate while two were limited. In the first injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR Department, the Steeler start with six players on the list.

Steelers PR Department

The Steelers did not have any player who missed last week’s game due to injury that is still on the active roster. Additionally, although there were some players that were banged up from the game, no player officially exited due to injury and did not return.

One player who did not practice much last week ahead of the game against the Falcons was running back in Najee Harris. As he continues to nurses abdominal injury, Harris did not practice on Wednesday.

One player specifically mentioned by Mike Tomlin on Tuesday who is banged up is outside linebacker T.J. Watt. On Wednesday, Watt was limited in his participation just like he was every practice last week.

Another player constantly dealing with injury but has been able to suit up for all but one game this season is Larry Ogunjobi. Dealing with a toe injury, Ogunjobi did not practice on Wednesday.

Missing his first offensive snap of the 2022 NFL season, Chuks Okorafor returned to the game after one play despite his shoulder injury. With Coach Tomlin stating Tuesday they may cut back on Okorafor‘s workload early in the week, he did not practice on Wednesday.

Another player not previously mentioned as dealing with an injury is outside linebacker Malik Reed. Listed as having a back injury, Reed did not practice on Wednesday.

The final player on the injury report for Wednesday was wide receiver Diontae Johnson with a hip injury. In the first practice of the week, Johnson was a limited participant.

As for the Ravens’ injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of Steelers.com.

Baltimore Ravens Participation/Injury Report, Week 14

Wednesday, December 7

DE Calais Campbell (NIR - Rest) - DNP

C/G Trystan Colon (NIR - Personal) - DNP

WR Devin Duvernay (NIR - Rest) - DNP

OLB Justin Houston (NIR - Rest) - DNP

T Morgan Moses (NIR - Rest) - DNP

QB Lamar Jackson (Knee) - DNP

OL Patrick Mekari (Toe) - DNP

CB Marcus Peters (NIR - Rest) - DNP

CB Daryl Worley (Hamstring) - DNP

G Kevin Zeitler (Knee) - DNP

OLB Del’Shawn Phillips (Quad) - LP

LB Patrick Queen (Thigh) - LP

LB Kristian Welch (Concussion) - LP

T Ronnie Stanley (Ankle) - FP

Power Rankings: Resetting the pecking order for the stretch run

8 hours 32 min ago
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at where the Steelers fall in the NFL landscape after Week 13.

The Steelers are winners of their last 3 out of 4 since their Week 9 Bye. It’s been fun to watch a young cast of playmakers develop together and start to click. It all starts up front with the much-maligned Offensive Line finally finding some push, leading a resurgent rushing attack that has brought balance and consistency to the offense.

On defense, even a less-than-100% T.J. Watt is a presence that opposing offenses can’t ignore, and it allows the rest of the unit to play more effectively, especially in the secondary where Levi Wallace and Minkah Fitzpatrick have feasted on opposing passers’ errant throws under pressure.

It’s all leading to a final 5 weeks with, surprisingly after their rough start, a lot on the line for Pittsburgh. The playoffs aren’t out of the picture by any means, although the Steelers would need some help to get in. At 5-7. Mike Tomlin’s chances at earning another winning season are getting better as well. The Steelers remaining schedule includes the Ravens twice, the Carolina Panthers, the Las Vegas Raiders, and Cleveland 2.0 to close out the season.

As for the rest of the league, parity reigns supreme. In the AFC, 5 squads, including Pittsburgh, are within 2 games of the final playoff spot currently held by the New York Jets at 7-5. The NFC sits in a similar state, with the current 11th place team (Green Bay, 5-8) only 2 games back of the current 7th seed (Seattle, 7-5). It’s going to be a dog fight for the Wild Card as we enter the heart of the stretch run.

So let’s reset the NFL landscape for the final 5 weeks. Where do the Steelers land? Who’s looking good for the playoffs? Let’s dive into it!

1. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (11-1)

Analysis: The Eagles can beat you every different way. Jalen Hurts is on an MVP trajectory. The defense forces turnovers. They’ve got championship-level starting talent, depth, and coaching. What more could you ask for from the league’s best team?

2. DALLAS COWBOYS (9-3)

Analysis: The Cowboys are flying higher on offense over the last 5 games than anyone. They are averaging a beyond ridiculous 39.8 points/game in that stretch. The defense continues to be Championship level. This is the Eagles biggest competition right now for the number 1 spot.

3. BUFFALO BILLS (9-3)

Analysis: The Bills have pulled themselves out of their relative slump in November and are starting to show again why they were the consensus top Super Bowl choice in the AFC. They remain the red conference’s best team through 13 weeks. A brutal closing schedule will tell us all we need to know about this Bills team for January.

4. CINCINNATI BENGALS (8-4)

Analysis: Nobody east of central Texas is playing better team football than the Bengals over the last 3 weeks. The defense is one of the most technically sound units in the league. On the other side of the ball, the offensive line has improved drastically since October and Joe Burrow and company are proving to everyone that 2021 wasn’t a fluke. The Queen City Cats are here to stay.

5. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-3)

Analysis: A tough loss to the Bengals in Week 13 is concerning, mostly because KC can’t solve the Cincy riddle in their most recent 3 attempts. But take away a couple of rare miscues by Chiefs stars, and we’d be talking about this KC team as potentially the best squad in the AFC, if not the league.

6. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-2)

Analysis: The Vikings continue to flirt with mediocrity for quarters at a time. But when it counts, this team really believes it can win. The Vikings win more close games than any team in the league. A talent that bodes well for January football.

7. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (8-4)

Analysis: The loss of Jimmy G for 7-8 weeks with a broken foot sustained in their most recent impressive victory over the next team on this list. The prospects of not having Garoppolo for the remainder of the season and the first two weeks of postseason play dampen the overall trajectory of this squad, but make no mistake, Kyle Shanahan’s group is still a force to be reckoned with on Sundays.

8. MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-4)

Analysis: The Dolphins fell short in a closer-than-the-final-score-indicated game against San Fran. It remains to be seen if Tua Tagovailoa can hang with the big dogs in December and January, and early indications weren’t that great. This team still has plenty of talent and good coaching to be a contender as the season rolls towards completion.

9. TENNESSEE TITANS (7-5)

Analysis: The Titans are showing that they are in a different class from the upper echelon of the league, but they are still squarely in the playoff picture and should run away with the AFC South still despite their recent struggles. They’ll need more from Derrick Henry and that running game though if they want to surprise a Giant.

10. NEW YORK JETS (7-5)

Analysis: The Jets under Mike White are fun to watch. The offense is starting to match the defense’s weekly energy, and Garrett Wilson is a true difference maker on the outside with competent play behind center. Robert Saleh has built a championship level defense. Can this young team keep it together through the last 5 weeks to secure their first playoff spot since 2010?

11. BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-4)

Analysis: This record is one of the more inflated ones in the league, with Baltimore regularly looking sluggish on offense against mediocre and bad teams, but managing to win close games with coaching and defense. The injury bug is back to work in the Charm City as well, and an extended absence for Lamar Jackson with the Steelers (2x), Browns, Falcons, and Bengals all still on tap is concerning for a team that 30 days ago looked like a shoo-in division winner in the North.

12. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-5)

Analysis: The Seahawks just keep winning. They’re not flashy. They don’t do any one thing extraordinarily well, but they have really taken on the mentality of their head coach, and Pete Carroll has to be having the time of his life watching Geno Smith turn into the perfect system QB. It’s not all roses, but continuing to feed DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett down the stretch will be vital if Kenneth Walker and the run game can’t improve quickly.

13. DETROIT LIONS (5-7)

Analysis: You may think this is way too high for the 5-7 Lions, but who can’t they beat right now? The defense is finally coming together and is at least playing competently, while the offense is one of the most balanced, yet explosive units in the league with Swift and Williams spearheading a potent ground attack and Jared Goff channeling 2018 type production. Mark it down now, this team will make the playoffs.

14. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (6-6)

Analysis: The Chargers might be the most baffling team in the entire NFL. They obviously have a real star at QB, and it’s not like the rest of the team is a bunch of scrubs. Playmakers abound on both sides of the ball. But they just can’t get out of their own way in 2022. “Chargers gonna Charger” is about as bankable as cash money. If they can ever figure it out, watch out NFL. It may not happen under Brandon Staley.

15. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS (7-5-1)

Analysis: Tyler Heinecke is a competitor. He’s not especially good at quarterbacking, but somehow he’s one of the more built-for-big-moments signal callers in the league. A truly disappointing tie against the Giants is a setback, albeit a minor one. I just don’t trust that this team can really be a threat in Playoff football.

16. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (6-6)

Analysis: The Patriots run game has tapered in recent weeks, which isn’t a good thing considering the team’s struggles at QB, where Mac Jones continues to look like a shell of his Pro-Bowl Rookie self. The defense is still solid, but they’re going to need more than that to hang in the playoff picture with several teams behind them playing better football recently.

17. NEW YORK GIANTS (7-4-1)

Analysis: The Giants just don’t impress me that much. I think every Power Rankings I mention how fun Saquon Barkley is for this team (or my fantasy teams, more like it). Outside of Saquon, the defense isn’t that good and Daniel Jones and his limited cast of weapons on the outside don’t inspire confidence in the team as a playoff contender.

18. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (5-7)

Analysis: Don’t look now but this Steelers team has an identity. They will ride, dare I say, a dominant running game and efficient, chain-moving passing attack back to relevancy in 2022. They may already be there, and as you can see by my ranking of this team, I think they are. Are they a real contender? Not this year. Too young with too much growing to do. But I’d challenge you to find a team below the Steelers in this ranking that you’d say should definitely be ahead of them. In fact who above them outside the top 8 or so teams could the Steelers definitely not beat playing the way they’re playing right now? I don’t see really anybody fitting that description. With a healthy TJ Watt all year, I think we’d be looking at an 8-4 or 7-5 team with serious playoff aspirations.

19. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (6-6)

Analysis: The Buccaneers are officially the best of the worst after their ugly and improbable victory over the slightly uglier Saints, who had a chance to let everybody in the NFC South back into the division race with a win on Monday Night. The Bucs just don’t look right on offense, and despite improved defensive play in recent weeks, nothing about this team inspires any confidence that this group isn’t a one and done squad come January.

20. ATLANTA FALCONS (5-8)

Analysis: The Falcons continue to fall in the standings with disappointing and potentially avoidable losses in consecutive weeks. Looking at the 2nd half of their loss to Pittsburgh, one could easily see Atlanta taking home a W if they would have prioritized the run in the 1st half where they had a measly 6 attempts for a solid 28 yards. This Falcons team could be special on the ground if they would stay committed even in negative game script situations. Playoffs are looking less and less likely for an Atlanta team that had division title aspirations not long ago.

21. GREEN BAY PACKERS (5-8)

Analysis: The Packers still have Aaron Rodgers and the emergence of Christian Watson has been exactly what the doctor ordered for an offense that has appeared stuck for much of 2022. The Pack are on the outside looking in at the playoffs right now, and with a tough 4 matchups remaining may miss the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

22. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (5-7)

Analysis: Watch out for the Raiders. Even in the terrible start to the season, it always felt like this team was too talented on offense and along the front 7 on defense to be that bad. Those offensive weapons are playing out of their minds currently, with Josh Jacobs entering the conversation as the best RB in football, and Davante Adams re-cementing himself as the league’s most explosive wideout. The Steelers host this team on Christmas Eve. It would’ve sounded crazy 4 weeks ago, but that battle could end up being for a playoff spot.

23. CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-7)

Analysis: Game 1 of the Deshaun Watson experiment went about how I thought it would, with Watson looking like a QB who hadn’t played for 2 years. It didn’t matter against the moribund Texans, with the Browns defense and special teams units contributing 3 TDs towards a Browns win. Cleveland still probably feels like they can finish strong this season. If they do indeed finish strong in 2022, it’ll be because this team is well balanced on both sides of the ball, not because Deshaun regains his elite status.

24. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-8)

Analysis: A big Week 12 win over Baltimore was quickly overshadowed by a monster beatdown at the hands of the Detroit Lions. Yeah, the Lions made the Jags look like they didn’t belong on the field. Trevor Lawrence didn’t play awful, but the blame really rests on the defense, which has steadily regressed this season. To start the year, the Jaguars looked like they might have one of the better front 7s in the entire league. They’ve been playing like one of the worst in recent weeks.

25. ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-8)

Analysis: What to think about these Cardinals. They’re like the anti-Vikings: in almost every game, but can’t close out those tight contests in the 4th quarter. Whether it’s getting in their own way with penalties and poor execution for just getting outclassed by the other team, the Cardinals have a lot of introspection to do this offseason. Kliff Kingsbury’s seat is getting warm too, despite getting an offseason extension in 2022.

26. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4-8-1)

Analysis: I feel bad for Jeff Saturday. The experiment started out with a bang, but has steadily devolved into the mess it currently is. Against the Steelers in Week 12 on the primetime stage, the moment was too big for him. Against the Cowboys in Week 13, the entire Colts team was blindsided by unpreparedness, giving up an unreal 33 points to Dallas in 11 minutes of game time in the 4th quarter. This team has more issues than their inexperienced head coach, but those issues are exacerbated by that whole situation. Rough year for Colts fans.

27. CAROLINA PANTHERS (4-8)

Analysis: The Panthers find themselves afloat in the NFC South behind Sam Darnold and improved play across the board. It’s probably not enough, even in the ugly South, but at least Steve Wilks’ squad plays tough every week, despite being fairly talent-poor on both sides of the ball.

28. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (4-9)

Analysis: The Saints have to be disappointed in their campaign. I had no big expectations for NO in the offseason, despite them having a decent-sized group of supporters in the media. They’re a total mess on offense with Andy Dalton or Jameis Winston at QB. They can’t get Alvin Kamara going, and the defense, although good, hasn’t been elite enough to make up for the offense’s deficiencies.

29. CHICAGO BEARS (3-10)

Analysis: The Bears might be the most explosive and fun to watch 3-10 team ever. Justin Fields is that dude for 2022 and beyond. It’s time for that front office to start thinking about why they gave the Steelers their, now very high, 2023 2nd Round Draft pick for Chase Claypool, who hasn’t done really anything for “Da Bears” since arriving in town. The defense might be the league’s worst. Maybe start there, GM Ryan Poles.

30. LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-9)

Analysis: In a lost season for the Rams, Sean McVay has to be wondering why he gave up the cozy broadcaster job to come back to this mess. You won’t see much more, if any, of the Rams stars for the remainder of the season with Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp still recovering from injuries. You’ve got to wonder what kind of shakeup we’ll see out in LA this offseason.

31. DENVER BRONCOS (3-9)

Analysis: The Broncos might be the worst situation in all of football with major financial issues compounding talent and coaching issues on the offensive side of the ball. The Broncos defenders have every right to be absolutely torqued about the ineptitude of the offense. The Broncos have a lot of decisions to make, and the time for those decisions is approaching very, very quickly.

32. HOUSTON TEXANS (1-10-1)

Analysis: Houston will draft a QB with the first overall pick. They’ll need far more than that to be anything more than a footnote again in 2023. The Texans are drowning in a sea of ineptitude and cluelessness we haven’t seen since the Hugh Jackson era in Cleveland.

2022 NFL Week 14: Steelers vs. Ravens

9 hours 2 min ago
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers and Ravens are going head-to-head in Week 14.

When it comes to NFL rivalries, the Steelers and Ravens would be at, or near, the top of the list. The two divisional rivals have had some of the most contested, and bloody, games in recent memory.

When you look at how the Steelers hold just a 10-game advantage in this series, it doesn’t speak to just how close, and even, these two organizations have been throughout the years. Who can forget those legendary matchups which had names like Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Hines Ward, Ray Lewis, Ben Roethlisberger, Terrell Suggs, James Harrison, and the list could go on and on.

The names might have changed, but the rivalry has not.

With all those aforementioned names now gone into retirement, new names and faces take over for the old ones. Lamar Jackson, who’s status for the Week 14 game is unknown with a knee injury, and Kenny Pickett are now the quarterbacks charged with taking the reins of this rivalry. Defensively you have T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward battling it out with the Ravens running attack of Gus Edwards, Kenyan Drake and Justice Hill.

It might not have the same ring to it, but this game has serious significance for both teams. The Ravens are just trying to stay ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North standings, while the Steelers are hoping to inject themselves back into the conversation. The game being in Pittsburgh is big, and so is the fact the Steelers haven’t lost to Baltimore since 2019.

A Steelers win Sunday would pay huge dividends in their hopes of resurrecting the season, while a loss would crash those hopes and dreams. Sounds like a typical Steelers vs. Ravens game, doesn’t it?

Steelers Burning Question: How confident are you in the direction of the Steelers?

10 hours 2 min ago
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have battled back after a dismal start to the season, but are you confident in the direction of the team?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have turned around their season, at least to a degree, battling back from a 3-7 record to now entering Week 14 with a 5-7 record. Things are looking up with the team, but they are far from perfect.

It is at this point when you have to ask yourself if you are confident in the direction of the team/organization?

The key to the above question is more about the direction of the organization, and not just in the short term and the remainder of the 2022 season. When deciphering this answer you have to weigh in several different factors.

The first would be the current roster. While not all the players will remain beyond 2022, but the majority will. Will the current roster be good enough to build upon for future success? On top of that, you have to wonder about the current coaching staff and if they’re good enough to keep the team competitive for the long haul.

Next would be the 2023 NFL Draft. Sure, the Steelers were once possessing a Top 5 draft pick, but their recent winning streak now has them projected to select 14th overall. The 2nd Round pick they received from the Chicago Bears for Chase Claypool absolutely helps, but will it be enough?

Last, for the majority of the fans, would be the new regime in the front office. New General Manager (GM) Omar Khan might have been with the organization for decades, but never as the GM. He’s made moves, like the Claypool trade, and given out new contracts, but never been the GM for an NFL Draft. He won’t be doing it alone, hiring Andy Weidl from the Philadelphia Eagles to direct the football side of the GM gig. Will they be able to get the job done in both free agency and the draft?

All of this adds up to the question below in the Reacts survey. Are you confident in the direction of the team? Let us know by voting in the poll below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the results, as well as the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14.

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Pittsburgh Steelers fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate.

Please take our survey

Steelers add a linebacker to the practice squad

11 hours 9 min ago
Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers continue to move players on and off their 16-man practice squad

The Pittsburgh Steelers are continuing to shape the roster ahead of their Week 14 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at Acrisure Stadium. On Wednesday, the team announced they have signed linebacker Emeke Egbule to the practice squad.

We have signed LB Emeke Egbule to the practice squad and released RB Master Teague from the practice squad. @BordasLaw https://t.co/tF3kQAFCa5

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 7, 2022

Drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL draft by the Los Angeles Chargers out of the University of Houston, Egbule played in 32 games over three seasons in Los Angeles primarily as a special teams contributor. Playing 96 defensive snaps compared to 370 special team snaps, Egbule has 13 career tackles with two quarterback hits.

In 2021 Egbule did not make the chargers 53-man roster but with signed to the team’s practice squad and ultimately was elevated for three games. In 2022, Egbule failed to make the roster again and has been a free agent ever since.

To make room on the practice squad, the Steelers released running back Master Teague. The Steelers signed a Teague to the practice squad ahead of their Week 12 matchup against Indianapolis Colts as Jaylen Warren missed the game due to injury and Anthony McFarland was elevated from the practice squad. Teague remained on the practice squad as both Warren and Najee Harris were dealing with injuries throughout practice for Week 13. With all running backs currently available, the Steelers no longer need to carry an additional running back.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to host the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at Acrisure Stadium at 1 PM.

Steelers offense leads the way to their second straight win

12 hours 32 min ago
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

After another solid performance by Kenny Pickett and Pittsburgh’s rejuvenated running attack, hope is rising in Steelers Nation.

In the wake of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 19-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons, it’s hard to believe that, only a few short weeks ago, the 2022 season seemed to be heading nowhere. This conundrum spurred plenty of discussion about what might be the best possible scenario for a team which clearly seemed to be missing too many bricks from its foundation. Back then, the consensus held that an optimal result would be for the Black-and-gold simply to determine its permanent quarterback and start playing more consistent football by season’s end.

With five games remaining in what was widely expected to strictly be a season of transition, not only does that best-case scenario appear plausible but, given the knee injury to Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson on Sunday, at least one of these remaining games might be less challenging than expected. Considering the Steelers’ up-and-down play while posting their 5-7 record, however, it’s equally possible to imagine them stumbling on some of those apparently winnable games. Nonetheless, the “glass-half-full” segment of Steelers Nation is excited to daydream about a 7-game winning streak to wind up this season which would push the team all the way to 10-7.

After what we witnessed in Atlanta and Indianapolis, this incredible scenario would be possible only if the Steelers offense continues to carry the team through its stretch run. During Pittsburgh’s modest, 2-game winning streak, the ability of the offense to possess the ball and add points at crucial junctures has spelled the difference between victory and defeat. On the other hand, the Steelers’ defense has been opening the door for opponents to stage second-half comebacks.

The high hopes accompanying T.J. Watt’s return from injury have been scaled back during the past few weeks. Watt entered the Atlanta game clearly not at 100% and, by the game’s final whistle, his condition looked even worse. He was practically invisible throughout the Atlanta game, even when he was single-blocked. There’s a real possibility Watt might be finished for the season unless he’s able to sit out another week or two. And given his obvious decline in performance on the field, it’s reasonable to question the decision to bring Watt back this season.

Without the T.J. that Steelers fans know and love, Pittsburgh’s defense is severely compromised and lacking in the ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks. As for the run defense, it has been shredded this season by several opponents.

But considering these defensive woes only makes the Steelers’ good-news offense shine all the brighter. Kenny Pickett continued his progress in Atlanta in a performance which statistically was similar to the win in Indianapolis. For the most part, Pickett was accurate in targeting his receivers despite a couple of drops which might have added more points to the scoreboard. Completing 16 of 28 passes for 197 yards including one 17-yard TD pass to Connor Heyward, Pickett once again was flawless in protecting the football (no interceptions or fumbles). Against the notion that Kenny might fancy himself as a running quarterback, he tucked and ran the ball only twice in Atlanta for a total of 14 yards.

Perhaps most notably, when Pickett missed throws, he did so in a way that ran very low risk of interceptions. This was especially evident on passes when his receivers were closely guarded. It seems obvious that Pickett is a quarterback who doesn’t like to gamble by throwing into coverage. He typically opts for sailing the ball over the receiver’s head or short-hopping it when a particular pattern is tightly defended. For a rookie QB, these are uncommon-but-positive traits.

Running the ball for a total of 154 yards and a 4.2-yard average per carry, the Steelers’ infantry logged another impressive performance. Once again, the OL played a commendable game, not only in run-blocking but also in pass protection. Najee Harris played like a man possessed, breaking tackles and pushing defenders backwards while rushing for 86 yards and a 5.1 yards-per-carry average. Benny Snell added 24 yards on six carries, while Steven Sims had three carries for 19 yards.

Overall, the Steelers’ offense was well balanced, rushing for 11 first downs (the same number as last week vs. Indy) while passing for 10 first downs. They converted 6 of 12 third-down situations and averaged 5.4 yards per offensive play for the entire game.

The Steelers receivers were the source of some controversy, plus a huge, splash play in the form of Pat Freiermuth’s muscular 57-yard catch and run. The controversy surrounded rookie receiver/phenom George Pickens who played only sparingly even though he obviously was not injured. But Freiermuth’s three catches for 76 yards and Diontae Johnson’s five catches for 60 yards compensated somewhat for the strange disappearance of Mr. Pickens.

Looking ahead on the Steelers’ schedule, we find a trio of games that, at least on paper, appear to be winnable matchups. Next Sunday, the Black-and-gold play the Baltimore Ravens in Pittsburgh and perhaps without Lamar Jackson in the lineup. On December 18, the Steelers go on the road to face the currently 4-8 Carolina Panthers. Then on Christmas Eve, the Steelers host the currently 5-7 Las Vegas Raiders at Acrisure Stadium. In their final two games in January, the Steelers will face the Ravens on the road (likely with Lamar Jackson back) and the Cleveland Browns with their infamous, $230 million QB.

Thus, depending on the severity of Jackson’s knee injury, there’s a chance the Steelers will have similar-caliber competition in the majority of their final five games as the teams they’ve faced during the past two weeks. Assuming that Pickett’s development remains on track and the offense continues to improve its production, the Steelers might not run the table but it’s certainly not a huge stretch to see Pittsburgh reaching 9-8 or 8-9 by season’s end. A key element in this scenario will be Matthew Wright’s clutch placekicking which has spelled the difference in the past two wins.

The very idea that the Black-and-gold might be in the running for a Wild Card berth seemed absurd not long ago, but currently it falls within the realm of possibility, however slim. Regardless of whether the Steelers seriously challenge for a playoff berth, their current 5-7 mark and the mostly friendly schedule ahead make it likely they will meet or surpass the most optimistic forecasts of many fans and pundits. Equally important, their recent, winning efforts have substantially boosted the level of fan interest in the games remaining, and no longer strictly in terms of determining their position in the 2023 NFL Draft.

10 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin during Tuesday’s press conference

13 hours 47 min ago
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers head coach held his weekly press conference with the Pittsburgh media ahead of their matchup with the Ravens.

Fresh off the Steelers win over the Atlanta Falcon on Sunday, head coach Mike Tomlin was back at the podium to speak with the media ahead of Week 14. Being a key AFC North matchup, there were a lot of questions at the Mike Tomlin press conference on Tuesday. With many players discussed, it’s time for another players mentioned by Coach Tomlin during his media time. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.
NOTE: This week Coach Tomlin forgot to mention the injuries so he was reminded right after he opened things up for questions. His response, since not usually covered here unless asked about a specific player, has not been included.

T.J. Watt

Although he has returned to the Steelers defense after missing most of the first half of the season, reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt is banged up and playing through multiple injuries. Coach Tomlin was asked if Watt’s rib injury is the biggest hurdle for him.

“Yeah, I guess you could describe it as that. Yes.”

Matthew Wright

Since Chris Boswell landed on the Reserve/Injured List coming out of the Steelers bye week, Matthew Wright has filled in and has not missed a kick in the last three games. Coach Tomlin was asked what Wright has been able to do for the Steelers besides consistency.

“Man, that’s all I care about. Put the ball through the uprights. I’m not a technical teacher, as it pertains to field goal kicking. I’m responsible for everything, but I don’t have direct experience. I don’t know how to kick, I’m not very good at it. I appreciate the ball going through the uprights.”

Levi Wallace & Cam Sutton

On the season, cornerbacks Levi Wallace and Cam Sutton have reached double digit pass defenses. Coach Tomlin was asked what that means to him as a former secondaries coach.

“They both have really good above the neck games. They do. When you’re good above the neck, there’s a feel, there’s an anticipation, and oftentimes, that feel or anticipation is required to do anything other than tackle the catch. In the National Football League, everybody’s varsity. All things being equal, you’ve got good route running, you’ve got accurate throws, you’ve got good coverage. Usually what you have is defenders tackling the catch. So, when it gets beyond that from a defender’s standpoint, there’s some anticipation, or intuition, or knowledge there that gives them the edge to go beyond that. So, when you see guys like those two with double-digit PBUs [pass breakups], it probably speaks more to anything that they’ve got a certain amount of exposure, awareness and preparedness.”

Kenny Pickett

Even when questions are not asked about him, the Steelers rookie quarterback still manages to find his way into some answers. Coach Tomlin was asked about what the Steelers learned about ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley in playing him the last game of last season. In his response, Coach Tomlin mentioned Kenny Pickett.

“I’ll tell you, one thing I know and learn is that I look at it from his perspective. That’s a guy that had an opportunity to get an extended amount of play last year. When you don’t have a long playing resume and you go into an offseason, it’s somewhat mystical, the errors in your game that you need to work on. I would imagine last year’s experience really narrowed his focus as he went into the offseason. He was able to identify tangible areas of his game that he needed to improve, and I’m sure that they were as well. So, we’re not going to seek comfort or find comfort in the fact that we’ve been in the stadium with him before. Last year’s exposure for him probably more than anything just tells us we’d better be prepared fora guy that’s significantly better. When you’ve played and you’ve had experience, and you’re no longer speculating. He’s not speculating what it’s like to be in a stadium against the Pittsburgh Steelers; he has that experience in his hip pocket. We’d better assume that he’s going to be significantly better, in the same ways that we’re not surprised that Kenny is getting better with each opportunity. Every week, you guys ask me how and why Kenny is getting better: exposure. I can say the same thing about their quarterback play, and the experience that he gained from a year ago. So, that’s our mentality. We have been in the stadium with him, but we’re not finding comfort in that. We’re preparing to see a much better guy, a more experienced guy, a guy that’s learned from that exposure.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked what he looks for in the development of younger players outside of Kenny Pickett and yet he still mentioned Pickett in his response.

“Their development also produces the wins, and so it’s the chicken or the egg. We don’t grade on a curve. Oftentimes, when I’m asked about Kenny, I talk about his progression and the rate of his progression, but always include in that statement that we’re not grading on the curve. We expect him to produce wins while this development is happening. It’s the same thing for all those guys. They’re growing and growing in the right ways because of the victories. Their play is producing the victories, so let’s keep it going.”

Pat Freiermuth

A player who has given the Steelers the most consistent play throughout 2022 on the offensive side of the ball may very well be tight end Pat Freiermuth. Coach Tomlin was asked if Freiermuth is coming into his own because of any changes that were made or if he’s simply getting more comfortable.

“Pat’s a second-year guy. It’s reasonable to expect those guys to make a significant jump. He had a lot of success in his first year, he made us really optimistic about the prospects of this year. I think it’s just kind of coming to fruition. I don’t think any of us are surprised by it, and at the top of the list is Pat Freiermuth.”

George Pickens

A lot has been made out of the frustrations on the sidelines last game by rookie wide receiver George Pickens. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he tells Pickens about wanting more targets.

“I’d rather say woah than sick ‘em. I want a guy that wants to be a significant part of what it is that we do. Now the appropriate and professional and mature way to express that, we’re growing and working on, and we will continue. But that spirit, that competitive spirit, the guy that wants the ball, I want that guy. I would imagine that T.J. wants to lay the quarterback down more. We’ve got competitors. This is professional football. These guys know that they have to deliver. So, for a guy that wants to do that, I’m not going to make that a negative, no matter how silly I think the commentary is or people talking about him expressing frustrations and stuff and trying to make it a negative storyline. I laugh at that. Again, that’s one of the reasons why we’re continually progressing because we’re capable of tuning that BS out.”

Cam Heyward & Connor Heyward

Last Sunday brothers Cam and Connor Heyward were able to visit their father‘s grave earlier in the day before facing the Atlanta Falcons. Already saying how he spoke with Cam, Coach Tomlin was asked if he had a chance to talk to Connor yet.

“I have not. I don’t talk to Connor; I talk to Cam.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked about Cam Heyward being the Steelers nomination for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award and what he would say about why Heyward should win for the NFL.

“Here’s the thing for me: just the totality. I know it’s an award that acknowledges the work that’s done in 2022, but much like his playing career, man, his work in the community whether it’s Pittsburgh or Atlanta, where he’s from, or Columbus, where he went to school, or any community that he cares about, this guy contributes in a positive way in the way that he has as a player. The totality of his resume in that area is indisputable like the totality of his resume as a player. It’s over a decade of service. That’s why I feel like he needs no endorsement for me. How he lives his life and how he conducts himself, how he cares about people and utilizes his platform in a positive way is all the endorsement that he needs.”

Najee Harris

This was a little bit different scenario about a question and answer that included many players where all but one had previously been outlined above. For that reason, this one falls under Najee Harris as the only one left who didn’t have something else already said about him. Coach Tomlin was asked about hearing from some of the rookies such as Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, and Connor Heyward about the bond that they share and how he sees them growing. In his response, Coach Tomlin mentioned guys like Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris who are second-year guys and the bond they share as well.

“Every rookie class has a bond. In the offseason, when you bring them together, you herd them in vans, you house them in the same hotels, they eat together, at training camp, they live together. They figure things out together. Life skills on Tuesday. The only thing that’s probably different about this group is they’re probably getting the opportunity to contribute in play more in the midst of it. But you can say the same thing about Naj[ee Harris]and Muth [Pat Freiermuth] and those guys from a year ago. There’s always a unity within a within a draft class, man, not only because of the challenges that they face together, but just the informal time. They spend time together. They often live in the same communities. This life for them, there’s a brotherhood there.”

For more information on Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out the podcast below:

If you want to watch Mike Tomlin’s press conference, you can see it in its entirety below.

Coach Tomlin addresses the media ahead of our Week 14 game against the Ravens. @PNCBank

#BALvsPIT Sunday at 1 PM ET on CBS https://t.co/stjAMR131O

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 6, 2022

Matthew Wright has been right on as the Steelers replacement kicker

15 hours 2 min ago
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Steelers couldn’t have asked for a better replacement kicker than Matthew Wright.

When examining a Steelers offense that had been about as stingy with points as your dad used to be with your allowance, the November 10 announcement that kicker Chris Boswell was being placed on Injured Reserve must have been quite alarming.

Boswell has morphed into one of the best kickers in the NFL since joining the Steelers as a replacement during the 2015 campaign; thankfully, he’s seemingly upped his game another notch or two in recent years, a bleak, dark, dreary period in team history when it comes to offensive output.

Surely, no kicker could possibly come in and match Boswell’s production, right?

You might have thought that about Matthew Wright, who the Steelers signed to take Boswell’s spot on the active roster. Those thoughts may have grown into genuine anxiety when Wright, who also briefly kicked for the Steelers late in the 2020 campaign, missed two of his four attempts during a 20-10 victory over the Saints at Acrisure Stadium on November 13. One of those misses was so wide to the left, one had to wonder if Wright had made a prop bet against himself.

I certainly couldn’t have blamed anyone if they had placed a bet on Wright’s stay in Pittsburgh not being all that long and/or successful.

But Wright managed to quickly recover from his disastrous 2022 Steelers debut and has been perfect ever since, even if two of his recent successful kicks doinked off the uprights before bouncing in.

One such successful doink occurred on Sunday in a game against the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Yes, one week after doinking a kick in the domed home of the Colts, Wright’s first field-goal attempt in the Falcons' domed venue, from 46 yards out, doinked off the right upright.

Wright would go on to make three more field goals on the day—including another from 46 yards away and one from 48 yards out—to finish four for four.

Those 12 points were vital in a 19-16 victory that improved Pittsburgh’s record to 5-7.

Wright hasn’t missed a field goal since the two against New Orleans and has converted on 12 of 14 attempts since taking over for Boswell.

Wright has converted on five of six field goals from 40-plus yards and has made his lone attempt from 50-plus. Wright has also been successful on all seven of his extra-point attempts since joining the Steelers.

Wright, 26, has been the proverbial journeyman kicker since making his professional debut with the Steelers two years ago. He spent 2021 with the Jaguars and converted on 21 of 24 field goal tries. He spent two games with the Chiefs early in the 2022 season and was successful on three of four field goal attempts as a replacement kicker.

Wright has converted on 40 of his 46 field goal attempts during his brief career and has only missed on two of his 37 extra-point tries.

Wright’s leg strength may be a little suspect on kickoffs, but certainly not when attempting field goals. Wright has converted on six of eight attempts from 50-plus yards during his three-year career and even has a 59-yarder on his resume.

The Steelers, and every other NFL franchise, are sure lucky that there is an overabundance of strong-legged kickers, not only on active rosters but also on practice squads—and even couches—waiting for an opportunity.

It wasn’t long ago that you could count established NFL kickers with Wright’s accuracy and leg strength on one hand (or foot). Today, you can find them everywhere.

I don’t know if Matthew Wright will ever find a full-time role as a kicker in the NFL, but he sure seems cut out for the job.

The Next Man Up mantra is usually one of fantasy, but not when it comes to replacement kickers in today’s NFL.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

16 hours 32 min ago

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

Steelers 2022 is ongoing and we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the BTSC website, but we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest four podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each broadcasted episode.

The Steelers Fix: Tracking the development of the Steelers Sophomore players

The Steelers won in Atlanta on Sunday by a slim margin of 19-16. There are plenty of eyes on the rookies, but what about the second-year dudes? Join BTSC’s Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar as they break it all down on The Steelers Fix.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • How did the second-year Steelers make the leap in Atlanta
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Mike Tomlin Weekly Press Conference Recap: Week 14 vs. Baltimore

The Steelers beat the Falcons on Sunday, leading to tons of questions about the remainder of 2022. Dave Schofield, editor of BTSC, gives you all the details on what Coach T had to say about the 19-13 win, injuries, and what’s in store leading up to a crucial Ravens.

The Scho Bro Show: Are the Ravens in Week 13 the biggest opponent 2022 has to offer?

The Steelers are now 5-7, and the Ravens are rolling into Steel City. Is this the game of the year for the black and gold? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed on the Scho Bro Show. the brotherly love entry of the BTSC family of podcasts.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the black-and-gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • How big is the Week 13 bash with Baltimore.

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Let’s Ride, Wednesday: Time to see what the 2022 Steelers are made of

There’s been so much talk of the caliber of opponents that the Steelers have been defeating. It’s time to find out what this team is made of. Jeff Hartman, BTSC Senior Editor, talks about this, and much more, in the latest episode of the “Let’s Ride” podcast.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The makeup of the ‘22 Steelers
  • The Mail Bag
  • and MUCH MORE!

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

BTSC Survivor Pool Update: Week 13 results

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 5:00pm
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

All three contestants held on for yet another week.

The Behind The Steel Curtain survivor pool is rolling along as each week those who make it through are one step closer to the prize. With four leagues completely filled with 100 entries, the fifth league finished with 35 participants. While technically there are 435 total entries, I have one entry in each league as the commissioner so there were 431 different contestants. Hundreds have entered, but only one can go home with the autographed Cam Heyward football.

There were two different games selected from the three remaining contestants. Two of the choices were the Cleveland Browns over the Houston Texans. Despite only managing two field goals on offense and giving up a safety, the Browns had two defensive touchdowns and another on a punt return to get the 27-14 win and send two contestants on to Week 14.

The other choice this week was the Seattle Seahawks over the Los Angeles Rams. This game was a back-and-forth battle throughout. Ultimately it was the Seahawks getting the touchdown with less than a minute left in the game and the Rams moving backwards before throwing an interception to end the game at 27-23.

So after 13 weeks, only 0.67% of the entries still remain and there are only contestants remaining in three of the five leagues. If you are still alive, make sure you enter your pick early so you don’t get knocked out due to a lack of selection. This is your reminder, so go make your pick now! Even being the only contestant remaining in your league, you must make your pick and outlast the remaining leagues.

Here are the picks used and remaining by contestant. Remember in Week 15 we go to making two selections each week so this is the final week of only making one choice.

Weekly Update:

Used teams are crossed out, Week 13 pick is in bold.

Upcoming Week 14 Games of Note:
  • Most heavily favored: Dallas (-17) at home over Houston
  • Closest match up: New England (-1.5) at Arizona
  • The Steelers match up: Pittsburgh (-2.5) at home over Baltimore

BYES: Atlanta, Chicago, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Washington

(all lines are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.)

So there you have it! Make sure you check back at Behind The Steel Curtain to stay updated on the contest. Even if you did not enter or have already been eliminated, feel free to check in and see how you would have fared each week.

Power Rankings: Steelers slowly climb up latest rankings

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers won their fifth game in Week 13 but it did little in improving their ranking on the latest Power Rankings.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in Week 13 of the 2022 regular season, beating the Atlanta Falcons on the road. Through 12 weeks of the regular season it has been extremely difficult to gauge where the Steelers rank among their NFL peers.

How far did the team rise after winning in Week 13? Based on this week’s NFL Power Rankings, not too far, but that isn’t say much considering where they were ranked before their third win of the season.

All in all, the Steelers’ rankings this week were all over the map. The truth might be somewhere in the middle, but it’s that time of the week where we take a look at other outlets’ rankings after Week 13 of regular season action.

Let’s get to the rankings...

ESPN

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. Minnesota Vikings
6. Miami Dolphins
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. Seattle Seahawks
...
19. Pittsburgh Steelers

We’re No. 1 in ... field goals.

It’s a good/bad news kind of stat. The Steelers lead the league in both field goal attempts (32) and field goals made (26). Their make percentage is in the bottom half of the league, but with a groin injury landing longtime kicker Chris Boswell on IR, that’s not entirely surprising. The reason the Steelers lead the league in field goal attempts, though, is because their red zone efficiency is among the league’s worst, scoring touchdowns on less than half of their trips inside the 20.”

NFL.com

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Buffalo Bills
5. Kansas City Chiefs
6. Minnesota Vikings
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. Miami Dolphins
9. Tennessee Titans
10. New York Jets
...
22. Pittsburgh Steelers

“You just know Mike Tomlin had to love how the Steelers closed out the Falcons on Sunday. Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett connected on a second-down pass to Diontae Johnson to move the chains and bleed valuable time off the clock in the final two minutes. After three runs, special teams perfectly executed a punt to down the ball at the Atlanta 2-yard line. Then Minkah Fitzpatrick, playing the part of closer, snagged the interception to seal a gritty 19-16 win. With Pickett progressing and T.J. Watt back in the fold, the Steelers are poised to finish their transition season in optimistic fashion.”

CBS Sports

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Buffalo Bills
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. Kansas City Chiefs
5. Minnesota Vikings
6. Cincinnati Bengals
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. Miami Dolphins
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. Seattle Seahawks
...
22. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Kenny Pickett has won three of his past four starts, showing improvement along the way. He is taking care of the ball and doing enough to move the ball.”

The Sporting News

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Buffalo Bills
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. Kansas City Chiefs
5. Minnesota Vikings
6. San Francisco 49ers
7. Cincinnati Bengals
8. Miami Dolphins
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. New York Giants
...
21. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The Steelers are feeling it with Kenny Pickett leading their run-heavy offense and T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and other principals going back to making big plays on defense. They were bound to have a good finishing surge for Mike Tomlin.”

Pro Football Network Tier 4 | Ugly Football Teams

22. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers – and specifically Kenny Pickett – keep looking better as the weeks progress. However, not all is well.

Pittsburgh has a way of creating havoc in their receiving corps. George Pickens had a slight tirade on the sideline today. Diontae Johnson’s inconsistent play can be maddening at times. But hey, Pat Freiermuth is a dude!

The Steelers improve to 5-7 and are keeping hopes alive for a .500 season to keep Mike Tomlin’s streak alive. If they keep running the ball as well as they are, and Pickett keeps taking care of the football, there’s a chance they do it.

Yahoo! Sports

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. Kansas City Chiefs
6. Miami Dolphins
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Minnesota Vikings
10. Seattle Seahawks
...
21. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Is Mike Tomlin going to mess around and be over .500 again?”

What do you think of these rankings? Should the Steelers be higher? Are they ranked too high? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14.

Minkah Fitzpatrick leads the Steelers defensive PFF grades

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 12:31pm
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the grades provided by PFF from Week 13, Fitzpatrick brought in the highest score on the team.

The Pittsburgh Steelers got back-to-back wins for the first time this season with both victories on the road. The offense scored on five of their seven drives although they only were able to finish one with a touchdown. As for the defense, they were vulnerable against the run in the second half against one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks.

But how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for the Steelers Week 13 performance. Remember, these are just the grades for the Steelers for this past game and not combined with their previous performances. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. Next up is the defense. Included will be all the players who played at least one defensive snap and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 54 snaps on defense in Sunday’s game.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 92.0 (54 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 74.3 (13 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 72.3 (33 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 72.2 (6 snaps)
S Damontae Kazee: 65.2 (23 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

CB Cam Sutton: 42.3 (54 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 38.3 (50 snaps)
DT Larry Ogunjobi: 33.3 (32 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 29.2 (15 snaps)
DT Montravius Adams: 29.1 (25 snaps)

Defensive Front Five

DT Cam Heyward: 72.3 (33 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 63.4 (44 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 61.4 (24 snaps)
DT DeMarvin Leal: 53.0 (7 snaps)
OLB T.J. Watt: 52.5 (47 snaps)
OLB Malik Reed: 52.2 (17 snaps)
DT Larry Ogunjobi: 33.3 (32 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 29.2 (15 snaps)
DT Montravius Adams: 29.1 (25 snaps)

It was good to see Cam Heyward bounce back and land at the top of this position group and in the top five for the defense. What might be concerning is the fact only three players got scores that were above the line. Although they did the job the first half, the Steelers struggled to stop the run against a powerful Atlanta team in the second half. This is probably why the number of players from this group landed in the bottom five. As for T.J. Watt getting his lowest score of the season and his lowest since Week 16 of last year, it really came down to all of his scores as he had a 54.1 run defense score, a 42.9 tackling score, a 53.5 pass rush score, and a 60.0 coverage score. As much as anything, it appears as if he was pretty banged up throughout the game but powered through to help the defense as much as he could.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Robert Spillane: 74.3 (13 snaps)
ILB Myles Jack: 56.8 (41 snaps)
ILB Devin Bush: 45.6 (47 snaps)

I think there’s an important takeaway from Robert Spillane leading this group and having the second-best defensive score this week. There was one other time this season, against the Buffalo Bills, when Spillane scored in the 70s. What these two games have in common is the fact that he played less than 20 snaps on defense. It appears when the Steelers utilize Spillane in the right spots he can come through in a better way. As for the other two, they got pushed around a little bit in this game. When looking particularly at Devin Bush, he is not the type of inside linebacker they can constantly take on blocks from offensive linemen and be able to shed them. I believe his run defense score of 35.8 is reflective of that.

Defensive Backs

S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 92.0 (54 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 72.2 (6 snaps)
S Damontae Kazee: 65.2 (23 snaps)
CB Levi Wallace: 55.4 (51 snaps)
CB James Pierre: 54.7 (11 snaps)
CB Cam Sutton: 42.3 (54 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 38.3 (50 snaps)

Minkah Fitzpatrick has put up quality PFF scores throughout the 2022 season, but this week saw his highest yet. In fact, it was his highest score since Week 6 of 2020 against the Cleveland Browns. Fitzpatrick‘s overall score had him second-highest among safeties in Week 13 and his coverage score of 91.8 was the highest of any safety this week. When looking at the season as a whole, Fitzpatrick has the highest score among safeties in terms of coverage and is ranked fourth in overall score. As for the rest of the group, their scores mostly fell in line with how they finished last week with the exception of James Pierre falling back down into place. It is concerning that only three players scored above the 60.0 standard and two of them are sub-package players. Arthur Maulet came through with a high score for the second week in a row much in the way of Robert Spillane as his usage was minimized but impactful went on the field.

So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.

Steelers have several players who are banged up heading into the game vs. the Ravens

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several players who are dealing with injuries as Ravens week gets underway.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off back-to-back wins for the first time this season. Many will talk about the opponents they faced, the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons, as being sub-par competition, but the Steelers don’t set their own schedule. They just play it. And in Week 14 a familiar opponent comes to Acrisure Stadium in the way of the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens are dealing with injuries of their own, none larger than a knee injury to quarterback Lamar Jackson which could have him out of the game Sunday, but it isn’t as if the Steelers are a perfectly healthy team either.

Tuesday, during Mike Tomlin’s press conference, he talked about players who are banged up heading into the game with their AFC North rivals.

Shockingly, the first player Tomlin mentioned wasn’t linebacker T.J. Watt, who Tomlin labeled as “pretty beat up” after the game, but it was offensive tackle Chuks Okorafor. Okorafor left the game vs. the Falcons with a shoulder injury, and Tomlin said the injury could impact the early portions of the week for Okorafor.

Other than Okorafor, Tomlin talked about the players who are simply banged up. The type of injuries the head coach always calls the “bumps and bruises associated with football”. Of those players, Tomlin spoke about how the team can’t assume those bumps and bruises for players who missed practice time last week are “behind them”.

The Steelers coach talked about T.J. Watt, who is dealing with an injury to his ribs, and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi who has missed practice time all season with a slew of injuries.

The good news is Tomlin also said none of the aforementioned players dealing with some sort of injury are seen as a major issue. While it might hinder their practice participation, it doesn’t look like anyone will be held out barring a setback.

Players like cornerback Levi Wallace (shoulder) and safety Terrell Edmunds (unknown) who left the Week 13 game, but were able to return, weren’t mentioned by Tomlin during his question and answer session Tuesday.

On top of those players listed, Tomlin did speak about two individuals who are capable to return off of Injured Reserve (IR) after their four weeks spent on IR is now expired. Those players would be cornerback William Jackson III and kicker Chris Boswell.

Of those two players, Tomlin said the team will see where those roads lead, and added he is not ready to discuss those guys at this juncture. Instead, focusing on what these players’ work looks like once their 21-day windows officially start. In typical Tomlin fashion, his focus will remain on those players who are readily available to the team right now.

A lot can change with these injuries, and players potentially coming off IR and returning to the lineup. With that being said, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they hope to win three straight games, and inject themselves back into the playoff picture, when the Ravens come to town in Week 14.

Are the Steelers really improving, or playing sub-par competition?

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 10:32am
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won two in a row, but are they really improving?

Don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have turned things around. After being 3-7, the team has been able to rattle off back-to-back wins and inject themselves back into the conversation for a potential wild card spot in the AFC Playoffs.

Talking playoffs might be a long shot, although the Week 14 Baltimore Ravens matchup will tell a lot, but fans are wondering if the team has turned the corner, or if there is something else going on?

What would be this “something else”? It would largely have to do with the team’s opponents.

In the first half of the season the Steelers played a murderer’s row of teams. Teams like the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins made life difficult for a team transitioning to a rookie quarterback. Since the Week 9 bye, the schedule has softened, playing the New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons.

The Steelers have gone 3-1 in that four game stretch, and it makes you wonder if the team is really improving, or just playing bad teams?

This is a constant conversation which is necessary to have, and one in which our podcast platform has covered extensively following the Week 13 game in Atlanta. Be sure to check out the latest podcast rundown in the players below.

The Cutting Room Floor is an analysis podcast with Geoffrey Benedict, which only Benedict himself can pull off. BAD Language is Bryan Davis at his best, this time with a guest who knows all about the Falcons. The Steelers Hangover is a trio of Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White as they talk about the week that was, and how the Steelers look moving forward.

Check out all the shows in the players below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Ravens at home in Week 14:

Cutting Room Floor

BAD Language

Steelers Hangover

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Stock Report: Whose stock is rising after the win over the Falcons

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 10:00am
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Let's take a look at what direction Steelers stock is trending after their road victory over the Falcons.

Don't look now, but the rebuilding Steelers have gone and won back-to-back games on the road in under a week's time. That represents the first winning streak of the 2022 season for the good guys wearing black and gold.

I can only assume that the team somehow failed to receive the memo from an enthusiastic segment of the fan base stressing the importance of draft positioning. Win or lose, somebody is always unhappy.

The Steelers are starting to formulate an identity.

Keep it simple, stupid.

The Steelers are stressing on the fundamentals by focusing on the small details. This has enabled them to be competitive since their offensive epiphany during their bye week, and they have won three of their past four contests.

The results speak for themselves. The Steelers offense has been playing clean, competitive, and more consistent football. They have often been cautious, but occasionally opportunistic. The Steelers time of possession has increased substantially as they continue to covert third downs and generate long drives. Sadly, the Steelers have far more field goals than touchdowns to show for it.

Repeatedly settling for field goals, even when they have dominated the time of possession, has resulted in plenty of close games. Some have chosen to call this winning ugly.

News Flash: Young, rebuilding teams have to learn how to play and win games together, ugly or not.

Winning games is never a bad thing. Just win, baby!

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Kenny Pickett

It's difficult to find similarities between Ben Roethlisberger's and Kenny Pickett's rookie seasons. Pickett has assumed leadership of a rebuilding franchise, whereas Roethlisberger was the final missing piece for a championship caliber roster. Ben enjoyed instant success, and was worshipped for it. Pickett, not so much.

Rookie Pickett, and latter years Roethlisberger, do share one rather unfortunate similarity: they are the most polarizing figures in recent memory for the Steelers fan base. Maybe it's a contractual requirement to play starting quarterback for the Steelers.

As a fan base, we apparently are only given two options to choose from: Love ‘em or Hate ‘em, and it's mandatory we vote accordingly.

Sadly, the narrative for either player apparently can never be changed or impacted by actual performances, on or off the field. They are judged as much or more for who they are not, as for who they actually are. Ben was never Brady, and Pickett will never be Malik Willis, or any of the can't-miss prospects in the 2023 draft class. All the draft gurus know who they are, the can't miss guys, until they do.

Pickett received clear instruction during the bye week. Protect the football and manage the offense efficiently. Make the safe throws, and utilize his legs when the opportunity presents itself. Focus on creating favorable third down and distances. That's the formula for success with a rookie signal caller.

Pickett has done an excellent job on all accounts. Four straight games without a turnover. That's extremely rare for any rookie quarterback. His steady demeanor and strong leadership have made the Steelers post-bye week success possible.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Rushing attack

The Steelers offensive line continued their recent successful tendencies against the Falcons. Outside of a couple of penalties and missed assignments, the Steelers offensive line controlled the trenches throughout the game.

The Steelers effectively utilized three running backs on the day, with Najee Harris leading the way. His productivity has increased in conjunction with the return of his powerful north/south running style. Jaylen Warren continues to provide a spark as a third down specialist, and Benny Snell seems to be carving out a role of short yardage go-to-guy. Derek Watt remains perfect on the season in converting "and one" situations.

It sure has been enjoyable to watch the Steelers offensive line consistently generate enough push for a successful rushing attack, and create and covert short yardage situations. A man could get used to this.

Steelers Stock Trending Down: Wide receiver awareness

The old saying states there’s no ‘I’ in team, but there is am ‘m’ and an ‘e’. The Steelers wide receivers have been focusing too much on the me part, and it has negatively impacted their performances at times this season.

Diontae Johnson is the veteran leader of the Steelers young receiving crew, and that's not good. Johnson has been guilty of showing up his quarterbacks with exaggerated outbursts of frustration on the field, and direct confrontations off the field. He has openly voiced his frustration with the quantity and quality of his targets this season.

That is not ideal behavior from a veteran performer being paid WR1 type money. His misplaced focus has resulted in numerous mistakes on the football field ranging from pre-snap penalties, running the wrong direction, and dropped passes. Perfectly exemplified by the fact he has yet to catch a single touchdown pass this season.

It shouldn't shock anyone that we are starting to see similar behavior from the younger receivers on the roster. George Pickens has Pro Bowl caliber talent, but lacks maturity. His outbursts and behavior on Sunday against the Falcons was unacceptable.

Steven Sims appeared to lose his focus after his apparent first quarter catch was overturned by replay, resulting in a muffed punt he fortunately recovered, and when he nullified his own excellent sideline toe-tapping catch by accidentally stepping out of bounds earlier in his route. That is simply a lack of self awareness.

Selflessness is an often present but unforeseen quality of a champion. Team first is optimal, me first can be a problem.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Kicking game

All Wright, All Wright, All Wright, All Wright!

No, I am not referencing Matthew McConaughey's famous catchphrase from the movie Dazed and Confused. Instead, I am applauding Steelers replacement place kicker Matthew Wright’s perfect field goal kicking performance against the Falcons. 4-for-4 on field goals, plus connecting on his only extra point attempt. Achieved on a day that the Steelers desperately needed a perfect performance from their kickers.

Wright also did an excellent job of directional kickoffs throughout the game, definitely needed to limit the potential impact of the Falcons all time great kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson.

Steelers punter Pressley Harvin III was seldom needed on the day, as the Steelers offense had several sustained drives throughout the game, resulting in only two punts for the game. Thankfully, Harvin saved the best punt of his NFL career for the biggest moment of the game. Harvin rewarded the Steelers faith in him by perfectly placing a punt at the two yard line, forcing the Falcons to begin their final drive standing just outside their own goal line, needing a field goal to tie the game, but all out of timeouts.

As expected, the Falcons mediocre passing attack wasn't up to the task, as Minkah Fitzpatrick sealed the Steelers victory by intercepting the Falcons first play from scrimmage.

The Steelers kickers played an integral part in the victory.

Cam Heyward is the Steelers nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 9:42am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

This isn’t the first time the Steelers have nominated Heyward for the prestigious honor.

As if you needed another reason to like Cam Heyward...

Heyward, once again, is the Pittsburgh Steelers nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

.@CamHeyward is our nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, presented by @Nationwide.

Retweet & reply with “#WPMOYChallenge Heyward” to help him earn a $25,000 contribution to the charity of his choice. #WPMOY

: https://t.co/QSgbbDa29c pic.twitter.com/KTuVZXjVnB

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 6, 2022

During Heyward’s time in the NFL, he has been nominated for the Man of the Year award five times. While never bringing home the honor league-wide, him being nominated so many times speaks volumes about this work within the Pittsburgh community and beyond.

The award, sponsored by Nationwide, recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service, as well as his playing excellence. And there is no doubt Heyward shines in both areas.

How Heyward learned of his nomination was also special. During a team meeting former Steeler, and Hall of Famer, Jerome Bettis made the announcement. Bettis, the winner of the Man of the Year award in 2001, spoke about the impact Heyward is making both on the field and in the community.

“What I have seen from Cam is that his is a genuine commitment,” Bettis told Steelers.com. “He’s genuinely intertwined in his foundation. He is committed to it. He gets his teammates involved, and everybody wants to support what he’s doing. That’s a great sign of a leader, that he wants to step up in the community, but he also asks his teammates to step up as well, showing them the way.

“It’s critically important to be that leader because this organization is one that was founded in the community, is part of the community, always has been part of the community. It’s imperative and important that the players give of themselves to this community that supports them so much and gives so much to them. We have those leaders in this organization that understand that and continue to do that. Cam is doing that. I think it leaves a lasting legacy for this organization and for the players involved that.”

Heyward’s work with his charity, the Heyward House, has been well-documented since it’s inception, but this year he took it a step further with Cam’s Kindness Week. It was a week all about giving, and less about receiving. The week included an array of activities, but the bottom line is, what Heyward does in the community wasn’t limited to just one week of kindness.

Whether Heyward wins the league-wide Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which is always announced at the Super Bowl is irrelevant. Sure, it would be nice to see him recognized, but it won’t hinder him from doing what he’s always done within the community.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14 at Acrisure Stadium.

3 & OUT: An improving run game and the punt of a lifetime highlight the Steelers win in Atlanta

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers running game has lifted the entire team while winning three out of four games after the bye. How they’ve done it is worth analysis.

The Steelers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 19-16 on Sunday for their third victory in four games. Here, in my 3 & Out column, I look at their rapidly improving run game, how a host of self-inflicted wounds allowed Atlanta to hang around, and the punt of Pressley Harvin’s lifetime that closed the door on the Falcons.

Rock, pounded.

For those who yearn for the days when pounding the rock was king, this game was for you. The two teams combined for more total runs (65) than passes (53) and almost as many rushing yards (300) as passing yards (357). The Steelers ran it 37 times for 154 yards while Atlanta went 28-146.

Pittsburgh’s run game has been one of the best in the NFL for a month now. They’ve averaged 158 rushing yards per contest since Week 8, which ranks 5th in the league over that time. An improving offensive line, Kenny Pickett’s legs, a healthier Najee Harris and Mike Tomlin’s willingness to abandon his long-favored bell cow approach for a running back rotation have all contributed to the success.

Harris led the way against Atlanta, gaining 86 yards on 17 carries. But 20 of Pittsburgh’s runs were divided among Pickett, Benny Snell Jr., Jaylen Warren, Steven Sims, Derek Watt and Gunner Olszewski. This is a departure from last year’s philosophy which saw Harris tote the football on 75% of Pittsburgh’s total rushing attempts. Harris has carried the ball on just 53% of the runs this season. A lighter workload is proving beneficial, as Harris appears to be getting stronger. After gaining no more than 74 yards in any game the first two months, he’s had over 85 in three of the past four.

Harris is back to making runs like this one, where on Pittsburgh’s opening drive, he turned a play that appeared to be bottled up into a six-yard gain. Harris initially saw the backside cut on this mid-zone run, but when linebacker Rashaan Evans (54) flashed into the hole, he broke back to the play side, where he was corralled near the line of scrimmage. But Harris shrugged off a tackler, kept churning his thick legs and willed his way to a first down:

On Pittsburgh’s next possession, he made a nifty jump cut on a 2nd-and-1 play to pick up another first down:

Normally I don’t like a back bouncing wide in this situation, as moving laterally makes him easier to tackle than running downhill. But when Harris can do to a tackler what he did here to safety Richie Grant (27), it doesn’t really matter:

While Harris is running with more power than he was earlier in the season, he’s seeing the field better, too. Take this run from a heavy formation with six offensive linemen plus tight end Zach Gentry. Atlanta stacked the box in response, out-numbering Pittsburgh between the tackles. Harris recognized the +1 and wound his run to the backside edge, where he got a nice assist on a block from George Pickens (14) and rumbled for 13 yards:

Harris did the lion’s share of the work on those three plays, but for much of the game he was aided by an offensive line that largely won their matchups against Atlanta’s front. On this run, which is a split-zone concept that resembles the Wham play the Steelers used so effectively last week, the line got lateral movement, creating a backside seam for Harris inside the block of Connor Heyward (83). Pittsburgh’s linemen were able to cover up the linebackers, too, particularly Dan Moore (65), which allowed Harris to slip through the seam for a nice gain:

On this Wham run later in the contest, the line pushed Atlanta vertically, opening a huge hole for Snell. Center Mason Cole and left guard Kevin Dotson knocked the nose tackle into the linebacker, while James Daniels and Chuks Okorafor did a nice job on their combo block on the other side of the ball:

Canada helped, too. He ran his normal repertoire of jet sweeps, some as constraint plays to keep the defense honest. Others were run because of the looks Atlanta presented, such as this one to Sims. In the photo below, you can see how Atlanta kicked their backers to Pittsburgh’s trips formation to the wide side of the field. This gave the Steelers a numbers advantage into the boundary, which they capitalized upon by running the jet action with Jaylen Warren as the lead blocker:

Canada added a wrinkle here by having the line block as though it was wide zone to the field. The split-flow of the line moving one way and the run action going the other pulled Atlanta’s entire front away from the play. The run broke so cleanly Sims wasn’t contacted until he was ten yards down the field:

Pittsburgh’s run game took a lot of the pressure off of Pickett. The rookie quarterback made some big plays when the Steelers needed him to, like this touchdown throw to Heyward on a beautiful double move that extended Pittsburgh’s lead to 13-3 in the 2nd quarter. You can see Heyward, aligned to the inside of the trips formation to the field, duck outside off his stem at the 15-yard line before blowing by the safety, who took the bait. Pickett made a nice touch throw to the back of the end zone for the score:

Mostly, though, he was allowed to manage the football game. He did so efficiently, if not flawlessly, completing 16-28 passes for 197 yards. For the fourth game in a row, he did not throw an interception. The Steelers are 3-1 in those games.

The offense will need Pickett to do more at some point. But for now, a classic formula is paying dividends: effective run game + taking care of the football = success. Some things never go out of style.

SIW’s: The Sequel

In last week’s 3 & Out column, which chronicled the win over Indianapolis, I titled one section “SIW’s,” for Self-Inflicted Wounds. There I looked at many of the unforced errors the Steelers made — penalties, dropped passes, blown assignments — that allowed the game to be closer than it should have.

Welcome to the sequel.

The Steelers entered the game leading the NFL in drives of 10 plays or longer, but were just 28th in points per game. They showcased the reasons for that disparity repeatedly against the Falcons. Despite dominating much of the contest, they allowed Atlanta to make a game of it. This was particularly true on offense, where they had to settle for field goals on four drives where better discipline and execution could have resulted in touchdowns.

On their opening possession, Pittsburgh moved from their own 25-yard line to the Atlanta 23. There, on 1st-and-10, Canada called a read-option where Pickett could either hand the ball to Harris on a trap or pull it and run to the edge based on his read of an unblocked defender. Pickett pulled the ball, and this was the result:

While the read key (#27) closed quickly and forced Pickett to make an immediate decision, his choice was unfortunate. Pickett missed on a potential big play by misdiagnosing the read.

From this angle, you can see the gaping hold Harris had in front of him had Pickett handed him the ball. The Falcons were fooled by the trap, and Harris would have run through the arm tackle of the collapsing edge player for a big gain. Instead, Pickett took a five-yard loss from which the Steelers could not recover. They settled for a Matthew Wright field goal a few plays later.

Their second drive was another long one that ended in a Wright field goal. Again, the Steelers derailed it with unforced errors. First, on 2nd-and-11 from the +28, Pickett missed Pat Freiermuth on a skinny post that, had it been placed better, would have been a touchdown. It wasn’t an easy throw, with the safety closing in, but it’s one you’d like to see Pickett make:

Then, on the following down, Diontae Johnson dropped a throw on a Mesh route. Had he held on, he would have had enough room to run for the 1st down:

The Steelers did not self-destruct on their third possession, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Following a 57-yard pass play to Freiermuth that moved them into the red zone, left guard Kevin Dotson promptly jumped off-sides. But on the next play, Pickett found Heyward for the touchdown that wiped out Dotson’s mistake.

Pittsburgh finished the half with another good drive into Atlanta territory. On 3rd-and-7 from the +30, they appeared to move the chains when Pickett scrambled out of the pocket and found Sims along the sideline just beyond the marker. But Sims stepped out of bounds before coming back in to catch the ball and was flagged for illegal touching. Another mistake, another Wright field goal.

The trend continued in the second half. Pittsburgh methodically drove the field on their opening possession, moving from their own 9-yard line to the Atlanta 17. But on 1st-and-10, Johnson jumped off-sides. Johnson led the league in pre-snap penalties by a receiver in 2021 and has continued to make these lazy mistakes this season. A delay-of-game penalty compounded the problem, and Wright entered again to kick another field goal.

The growth of the offense has been fabulous to see. They have looked like a completely different unit in the four games since the bye week than they did in the eight weeks prior. Yet it’s hard not to be frustrated with how they continually leave points on the board with their unforced errors. Pittsburgh has been able to overcome these mistakes the past two weeks. Against better competition, they will not. The next step in the evolution of the offense is to reduce them.

Foot Ball

In the spirit of the ongoing World Cup tournament, Pittsburgh’s foot-ballers had quite a day.

Wright went 4-4 on field goals, with kicks of 46, 46, 48 and 33 yards. He also did a stellar job of keeping his kickoffs away from the dangerous Cordarrelle Patterson, whose nine return touchdowns lead all active NFL players. Wright perfectly placed a couple of pooch kicks to Atlanta’s up-backs early on. Then, when the Falcons moved Patterson into position to receive them, he booted the ball over Patterson’s head for a pair of touchbacks.

The kick of the day, though, belonged to Pressley Harvin III. “Big Press” came to Pittsburgh last season as a 7th Round punter with plenty of hype. But he has struggled to live up to it at times, frustrating fans with his inconsistency. His punt from Atlanta’s 40-yard line with 0:53 remaining was a thing of beauty, though, as it landed on the fly at the 1-yard line, spun back and was downed by Miles Boykin:

Harvin’s kick was about a foot from being a touchback, which would have given Atlanta possession at the 20-yard line with enough time to move into field goal range, where kicker Younghoe Koo had already been successful from 50 and 51 yards. Instead, they started at the 2. One play later, Minkah Fitzpatrick sealed the deal with a clutch interception, and the Steelers were victorious.

Wright has now gone 12-14 on field goals, including 10-10 the past three weeks, and 7-7 on extra points filling in for the injured Chris Boswell. And Harvin is quietly having a solid year, averaging nearly two yards per kick more than last season with a net improvement of 3.3. In a year where all details matter, Pittsburgh’s foot-ballers have been quietly effective.

And Out...

It’s Ravens week! The Steelers currently own a four-game win streak over their rivals from Baltimore, but they’ve hardly been dominant. Their margins of victory have been 5, 4, 3 and 1 points. Tyler Huntley may replace a banged-up Lamar Jackson at quarterback, but that won’t make things easy on Pittsburgh. Backups have started in this rivalry before and the games have remained tight, including last year’s 16-13 Pittsburgh overtime win with Huntley in the lineup. In the last 20 meetings, Pittsburgh holds an 11-9 advantage in wins, while Baltimore has outscored the Steelers 441-438. Expect another nail-biter on Sunday.

Heyward, Freiermuth lead the Steelers offensive PFF grades

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 7:15am
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

In the grades provided by PFF, the Steelers tight ends grabbed the top spots with superb scores.

The Pittsburgh Steelers got back-to-back wins for the first time this season with both victories on the road. The offense scored on five of their seven drives although they only were able to finish one with a touchdown. As for the defense, they were vulnerable against the run in the second half against one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks.

But how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for the Steelers Week 13 performance. Remember, these are just the grades for the Steelers for this past game and not combined with their previous performances. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. First up this week is the offense. Included will be the players who played at least one snap (except for Cam Sutton who only played in victory formation) and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 65 snaps on offense in Sunday’s game.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

TE Connor Heyward: 91.6 (14 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 91.1 (36 snaps)
RB Najee Harris: 86.6 (43 snaps)
RB Benny Snell Jr.: 80.4 (9 snaps)
QB Kenny Pickett: 70.1 (65 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

G James Daniels: 57.5 (65 snaps)
WR Gunner Olszewski: 55.7 (18 snaps)
WR George Pickens: 54.5 (44 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 53.7 (65 snaps)
WR Steven Sims: 45.7 (25 snaps)

Quarterback

QB Kenny Pickett: 70.1 (65 snaps)

While some might see this as a huge drop off from Pickett’s score last week, the perspective is that it’s his second-best score of his NFL career. Not getting the boost in run score this week as he had only a 60.2, Pickett’s 72.5 passing score is second this season only to last week’s. For me, this score fits very well with what I saw as I thought last week was a little inflated.

Running Backs

RB Najee Harris: 86.6 (43 snaps)
RB Benny Snell Jr.: 80.4 (9 snaps)
RB Jaylen Warren: 67.5 (13 snaps)
FB Derek Watt: 63.6 (7 snaps)

There were many weeks this season where Najee Harris’ score of 86.6 would have landed him at the top of the offense, and even in other weeks where there were higher scores he would have been no less than second. This week, coming in third is not so bad as Harris had his best score of the season by far, and his top score of his career. His 81.7 running score was only topped by last year‘s performance in the home finale against the Browns with an 82.7 rushing score. Snell followed up last week‘s performance with an almost identical score which saw him slightly lower in the run game with a 74.6 but increased scores in pass blocking of 73.0 and in the passing game of 79.0. Even Jaylen Warren and Derek Watt brought in scores above the line as the running backs looked solid across the board.

Receivers

TE Connor Heyward: 91.6 (14 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 91.1 (36 snaps)
WR Diontae Johnson: 66.8 (53 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 60.9 (48 snaps)
WR Miles Boykin: 60.0 (8 snaps)
WR Gunner Olszewski: 55.7 (18 snaps)
WR George Pickens: 54.5 (44 snaps)
WR Steven Sims: 45.7 (25 snaps)

Even though it seems like I mention Pat Freiermuth being at the top every week, this score tops anything he’s ever had in his two years in the NFL. Still, it was just behind Connor Heyward who caught his first touchdown of the season. To put the scores in perspective, they were the top two overall scores for tight ends across the NFL in Week 13. Unfortunately, things fell off a bit when it came to the rest of the position group. PFF only credited one drop in the game but it went to Diontae Johnson who was the next highest score of the receivers. George Pickens was frustrated with only having two targets with one reception for 2 yards, but PFF simply didn’t have him winning his matchup on receiving plays as his 52.0 receiving score was his lowest since the bye week.

Offensive Line

G Kevin Dotson: 68.7 (65 snaps)
C Mason Cole: 62.4 (65 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 62.1 (64 snaps)
OT Trent Scott: 59.0 (7 snaps)
G James Daniels: 57.5 (65 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 53.7 (65 snaps)

I thought the offensive line as a unit had one of their best games of the season, but the individual PFF scores did not reflect it in this way. Kevin Dotson topped the list but did not land in the top five. I can’t figure out why his overall grade was a 68.7 when he had a 76.0 pass blocking score and a 71.0 run blocking score. I guess his false start penalty cost him significantly. James Daniels had scores in back-to-back weeks that were below the line, but nothing about his play stood out to me in a bad way. Dan Moore had a very unbalanced score as he had a 72.0 pass blocking score but only a 49.2 run blocking score. Overall, I’m not too sure about things this week.

So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.

Steelers continue to look superior to teams on their level in win over Falcons

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 6:00am
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers again took the play to an evenly-matched opponent in 19-16 win over the Falcons on Sunday.

The Steelers controlled yet another game for almost its entirety, this time it was a matchup against the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday afternoon in Atlanta.

Yes, much like the Monday night affair against the Colts six days earlier, Pittsburgh, who came into the game with a 4-7 record, had slightly less on the line than did the Falcons, who went into the day with a 5-7 mark and in serious contention for first place in the less-than-mediocre NFC South Division.

Yet, the Steelers dictated the action right from the opening kickoff and dominated in time of possession and yards in the first half. As for points? Baby steps still. The Steelers couldn’t put Atlanta away, but they put 16 first-half points on the board for the second week in a row, including an impressive 17-yard touchdown pass from Kenny Pickett to a wide-open Connor Heyward, a play made even more special by the rookie tight end’s ability to keep his eye on the ball while making an over-the-shoulder catch and managing to get both feet and then a knee in bounds in the back of the end zone.

Did the offense match its first-half output in the second half? Of course not. Again, baby steps are still required for this young Steelers' offense, one led by Pickett, who had his moments—the pass to Heyward as well as a few others—and also his moments—he missed a wide-open Pat Freiermuth early in the game and managed to bleep off rookie receiver George Pickens by only targeting him two times for one catch and two yards.

It was an up-and-down day for receiver Diontae Johnson, who made several clutch catches and tallied 60 yards but did drop an easy pass early and was lucky to not be saddled with a fumble late.

The best play of the day came from Freiermuth, who reeled in a short pass from Pickett midway through the first quarter and rumbled (in the new sleek way tight ends do it these days) 57 yards down to the Atlanta 12, a play that ultimately paved the way for the Heyward score.

But the component that again made Pittsburgh’s offense run efficiently, if not potently, on Sunday was the running game; led by Najee Harris, who netted 86 yards on 17 carries, the Steelers rushed for 154 yards against Atlanta’s defense. You have to be excited about how good the ground game has looked since the bye. Actually, you could see signs of growth before the break, and after Sunday, the Steelers have now rushed for 100-plus yards in five-straight games.

Thankfully for a Steelers’ offense that only managed three second-half points, the defense was there to bend but not break against the Falcons' unorthodox yet effective running game, led by quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back/receiver/return legend Cordarrelle Patterson.

The Falcons did wind up rushing for 146 yards on the day, with the vast majority of those yards coming in the second half. Pittsburgh saw its lead shrink from 19-6 to 19-16, but the defense stood up late and limited Atlanta to a field goal on its penultimate drive by forcing an incomplete pass on third and goal from the 10.

And one play after Pressley Harvin III pinned the Falcons down at their own two-yard line with 39 seconds remaining (just his second punt of the day), safety Minkah Fitzpatrick ended the competitive phase of the game with an interception.

It was the Steelers’ third win in four games, and there is growing optimism that they could actually sneak into the playoff...discussion.

Will they? I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but the important thing is that they are playing really well against teams that are on their level. That’s good news since there are a few more such opponents still left on the schedule.

If the Steelers continue to play like they did on Sunday, it will be hard to prevent them from contending for, at the very least, a chance to keep their streak of non-losing seasons alive.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

Steelers 2022 is ongoing and we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the BTSC website, but we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said or typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

BAD Language: An ATL perspective on the Steelers triumph train in Georgia

The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday but they left a good bit of points off of the scoreboard. How revitalized are the Men of Steel at 5-7? So, BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis decided to make no apologies and share his black-and-gold brand of enlightenment. Join BAD preaching his own gospel of the hypocycloids on the new show, BAD Language.

  • News and Notes
  • Who are the 5-7 Steelers?
  • BTSC Accountability
  • and MUCH MORE!
Steelers Hangover: Looking at the Men of Steel in the Mirror

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday to improve their record in 2022 to 5-7. When Mike Tomlin’s team looks in the mirror, who and what do they possibly see. Join BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White for another Steelers Hangover in the 2022 season.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The Steelers mindset down the stretch
  • and MUCH MORE!
From the Steelers’ Cutting Room Floor: These Steelers aren’t the team you think they are

The Pittsburgh Steelers are many things, but they sure as heck might not be the team you think they are. Pittsburgh Steelers Geoffrey Benedict examines this and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Lessons from the Steelers second straight win
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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